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Out of Bounds

By Natalie G.

I was nervous to tell my dad I was dating Chris. I didn’t want to in the first place, but Chris was starting to get offended. I can’t remember how I brought it up on the phone, but I do remember how my dad responded.

“Is he Indian?” he asked.

“No.”

“Is he white American?”

I paused. “Yes.”

I had expected hesitation, but there was dead silence on the other end. After a few seconds, I wasn’t sure what to say, but I had to start talking again to break the awkwardness. “Dad, it’s not a big deal!” I said. “It’s not serious!” This was a lie. In fact we had been dating for more than a year at this point.

“Good.”

I knew it—in the future, avoid talking to my dad about relationships if at all possible. Although my parents are divorced—uncommon among Indians—my dad is still traditional and conservative.

I don’t blame him. Lots of Indians aren’t sure how to react when they encounter nice, sweet-looking Indian girls or boys dating non-Indians. I’ve seen my fair share of Indian aunties stare us down when we’re in public. It’s hard to say whether they disapprove of the fact we’re in a relationship or whether they just stare out of curiosity. Physically, Chris is hard to miss. He’s very tall—around 6’5”, and also very fair. It’s his “Norwegian blood”, he likes to say. I am very short—only 5’1”—and generally petite.

I’m not offended by the aunties’ gaze. In my view, aunties call it like they see it. If they think you’re too skinny or too fat, they’ll tell you so. If they’re curious about who you are or who you’re with, they’ll stare. Much more culturally telling is the different ways Chris and I react to their looks.

If we’re holding hands, I’ll instinctively drop his. Chris will not. “I’m not going to try to be disrespectful, but I’m not going to act differently than I normally would,” he’s told me. “I don’t owe them anything, especially if they’re being judgmental.” I disagree. In my view, simply holding hands in front of them is being disrespectful. Indians are uncomfortable with public affection, and it’s not because he’s white. They’d be just as uncomfortable if they saw a young Indian couple holding hands. It embarrasses me to do so in front of them.

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8 Responses to Out of Bounds

  1. Sonia February 15, 2010 at 3:39 am #

    Great article Natalie!

    I love the part about how you feel uncomfortable holding hands in front of other South Asian Aunties. It is so true! I am fairly ‘rebellious’ and do a lot of things most parents wouldn’t approve of, and usually say ‘I don’t care what others think as long as my loved ones know who I am’…but even I find myself dropping hands or not wanting to show public affection when an Aunty is around – and it’s funny because she is effectively an absolute stranger.

    It’s funny how our culture/society is ingrained into us in the strangest ways…

  2. Raghu February 18, 2010 at 3:30 am #

    Great Article Natalie,

    Having gone out with a Non-Indian myself, I completely relate to feeling uncomfortable with PDA. I used to feel like I was being disrespectful. But sometimes, one has to learn to stand up for our relationship – regardless of whether they are Indian or not.

  3. Sanj and seetz February 24, 2010 at 1:30 am #

    great article nat! totally feel you on the holding hands thing…the living situation was also a similar issue for us…even though we were getting engaged, it was a pretty big deal…at least he said he will always be your dad:)

  4. HD April 20, 2010 at 7:27 am #

    Natalie and Chris have been dating for over a year. They both come from two different family backgrounds. Chris a white American boy who has been living there his whole life. While on the other hand Natalie is and Indian who was brought up in the US. Natalie is a Hindu while Chris is a Christian. Both of the parents are religious.
    Natalie had a hard time telling her dad that she is dating an American. Actually she didn’t want to but Chris was starting to get offended. If I was dating someone who I think my parents wouldn’t approve, I wouldn’t tell them either. But if I was in her position I would tell my dad. After Natalie told her dad that she was dating someone, her father’s first response was “Is he Indian?” At this point she probably knows that her father is not going to approve. After telling her dad that he was a white American there was long pause. “there was dead silence on the other end.” To stop the silence she had to lie to him and say that it is nothing serious. I would do the same thing if I was in her situation.
    Natalie stood whit Chris even if her family and friends did not accept him straight away. It was not easy for her or her father. If they really love each other than hopefully they will stay get married and stay married until death.

  5. Adel Haddad April 21, 2010 at 7:15 am #

    “Find a guy who calls you beautiful instead of hot, who calls you back when you hang up on him, who will lie under the stars and listen to your heartbeat, or will stay awake just to watch you sleep… wait for the boy who kisses your forehead, who wants to show you off to the world when you are in sweats, who holds your hand in front of his friends, who thinks you’re just as pretty without makeup on. One who is constantly reminding you of how much he cares and how lucky he is to have you…. The one who turns to his friends and says, ‘that’s her.’” To find true love you should fight for it. That’s what love should be about. It’s not easy and it takes time.
    In love, traditions are there to be break. You will never find the right soul mate if you fallow what your parents believe in. “He has to be Indian. He has to be from a well known family.” Pressuring adults into love well never workout. It’s going against your heart. Your emotions. Your feelings. It’s the only part in you that you should have control on. Loving someone you never had that feeling of love toward for thirty or even forty years, will by no means feel right.
    I just don’t see how parents have a word in this. I don’t blame them. They were forced into it, like we are being forced into it. I m only sixteen and my parents are already talking to me about who they think I should be with. What if I loved this other person? I am not going to hide my feelings for ever. It’s something I will not live with for the rest of my life.
    Parents are not only doing this because it is tradition. There doing it because they think it is what’s right for us. But they got it all wrong.

  6. AIS STUDENT April 21, 2010 at 7:30 am #

    Is discussing dating with your parents out of bounds? Is being in love at a young age out of bounds? Honestly, I think not. Yet, I may relate to Natalie. We both have close-minded parents who wouldn’t really approve of their daughters (sons even) dating before marriage. It really isn’t a big deal when you think about it but to them it definitely is.
    It’s a bit uncomfortable to see their young daughter spending a great amount of time with a boy they know nothing about. Parents sometimes refuse talking about this topic because they know what things it will lead to. Affection, sex, and sometimes moving in together. Natalie is a bright Indian (part American) girl who just grew up with an American background. Her father, on the other hand is very conservative and traditional. Natalie hasn’t done anything wrong, but in her father’s point of view, it is against the Indian tradition to be doing all this dating. Once Natalie told her father about her boyfriend Chris, he freaked. She refused to continue talking about him and told him it was just a lie. Her father replied with a simple “good.”
    She hasn’t brought Chris up since that day but two years after long distance relationship between the both of them; they decided to move to the same state. Then it occurred to them that moving in together was a suggestion. Natalie was very uncomfortable with talking to her father about that, as a matter of fact she wanted to hide it from him at one point. I don’t really blame her. Her father didn’t give her a chance to express the way she felt. Yet I don’t blame him either for being close-minded with his daughter doing all this.
    I think that parents should let their children do what they want to as long as it’s appropriate and isn’t going to make you risk your life. It’s not a bad thing to date someone but when too many things are being asked, then maybe it is. Eventually Natalie talked to her father about moving in with Chris; he disagreed but in the end said “Whatever you do, our relationship won’t change. I’m still your dad. I’ll still be here for you.” Both of them didn’t lose anything, he still has his daughter and she still loves her father, but there was progress. A change happened. Stay committed to both your relationship and your parents and everything will be alright.

  7. Christina of Profresh Style October 9, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

    Natalie-

    Thank you for sharing this with me and everyone else. Unfortunately, it’s still hard for the world to accept bi-racial, multi-ratcial couples in society. You see it everywhere on the street, AND you still see the stares. I’m on the chopping block everytime because I’ve always dated an African American guy and with that comes the stigma, from African American women, from some family members, from lots of people. But luckily, strong people like you and I can really share the love we have for these significant others and that no matter what, we’ll have a support system in each other and hopefully, others.

    Thank you again my love<3

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